14th August 2019 / Comments (0)

Beerpacking in Slovenia and Croatia


Another contribution from Alpine Gravel Junkie, Gairy. Having built up his rather splendid Velo Orange Piolet, he had to pop its cherry on a bikepacking trip. But sometimes, bikepacking is just too serious.

Q. You know what I like best about beerpacking?

A. It’s pretty much impossible to fail.

We be rollin
Ever since I accidentally invented beerpacking (I didn’t) I’ve been increasingly drawn to it, and it’s light-hearted approach to bike trips, as a welcome antidote to the on trend and increasingly serious pastime of bikepacking™.
I can pop out for a self-supported adventure and then, just because I feel like it, go nuts and use a non-commercial service, book ahead for a room because the weather has gone sideways, or even take a Haribo from a fellow beerpacker without fear of being branded a failure or a cheat by the ITT mafia (I’ve yet to convince a camera crew to follow me with or without permission – but I could!).
OK, I jest and am very much aware that I’m being unnecessarily obtuse but…it does seem that bikepacking™ is in danger of taking itself a little too seriously these days and I think that a healthy dose of the beerpacking attitude might be just what the doctor ordered!
Case in point, the trip I’ve just returned from…..
Beerpacking in Slovenia

It started off serious…

I had a three day window to bugger off and do something interesting and so I hatched an (overly?) ambitious plan to drive from the French Alps across to the top right hand corner of Italy. From there I plotted two routes (one long, one short, both gravel intensive) which looped down through Slovenia and into Croatia before returning to Italy so that I could get home in time for bed on day three.
Pushing the envelope of the ‘micro-adventure‘ genre. Tweaking the nose of sensible time management. That’s me!
So how did it go?
Well, where should I begin……?
Two weeks before the trip I re-tweaked an old back injury. A week before the trip I got a nice flu/throat infection combo – perfect!. But…with the help of some industrial strength medication and a can-do attitude I was mostly mended by the time I was due to depart and so, no need to cancel the trip surely?

Sleep Deprivation and Long Distance Road Trips

The night before my 2am start, I managed four hours of broken sleep followed by a nine hour drive (Google maps was intentionally messing with me – I could hear a faint digital laugh emanating from my phone) and so it was a thoroughly pre-knackered and barely functioning husk of a man who arrived in Trieste, 4 hours later than planned on day one.
As the saying goes, only mad dogs and Yorkshiremen venture out in the midday sun and so I set off at 12:00 as the thermometer in the square recorded a temperature of 39°c – Scorchio!
Beerpacking and wallflowers

If you can’t stand the heat…

The 80km route I’d devised for the day consisted of a gentle (but relentless) 40km climb followed by a gentle 40km descent – ha!
Fifteen minutes in and I was feeling sick and dizzy. Exactly how much of this was down to the temperature alone I’ll never know, but I do know that there was no way in hell I’d have survived the full 80km.
Never one to bow to common sense I persevered for another (shadeless!) 12km of the climb until, just as I popped over the border into Slovenia, I vomited, sat down and gave myself a good talking to.
I had two choices. Admit defeat, retreat and feel like I’d failed. Or, simply throw the existing plan in the bin, assess the situation, work out what I could probably do and do it.

And just like that, Beerpacking was invented

It was here that I the trip ceased to be a bikepacking trip and morphed effortlessly into being a beerpacking trip… and relax…
A ten minute smart phone consultation revealed that I could backtrack to the Italian coast and pootle down into Slovenia once again before landing in a little town called Koper which appeared conveniently to be in possession of a cheeky little craft beer pub and a smattering of tasty restaurants – booyah!

Beerpacking – You can still suffer

Now just because I’d altered the route doesn’t mean I had it easy. Oh no! I genuinely felt (and still feel) that this was the most I’ve suffered in the heat on a bike. Ever!
Beer beer beer
I’m not some unseasoned noob who’s never put in a hard day in the saddle. I know how to suffer!
Seriously, it took all I had to ride a paltry 40km. I slumped into Koper just in time to see the sun go down over the sea.
A wonderful seafood dinner and 4 (small) glasses of joyous craftiness later, it was a happy man who got his head down. A good sleep and I’d be ready for the next day and whatever it might bring…

Miles = Smiles

The morning of day two saw our intrepid beerpacker up and at it nice and early. The plan? To get some miles under my belt before the sun baked me to a crisp (again!).
Over the border into Croatia and I was really beginning to enjoy myself. Although still very far from functioning at my best. As the really, really nice traffic-free cycle paths gave way to some lovely dusty trails with an almost African vibe. Palm trees, tall reeds and even a few banana plants lined the trail, in addition to the many vineyards and olive groves. It was all positively tropical.
I stopped for an uninspiring pizza in a lovely spot, followed by a little snooze in the shade. After which, I felt ready to brave the heat once more.
A normally disappointing grand total of 80km for the day was actually a cause for celebration! Not only was I loving every minute of my trip, I felt zero pressure to achieve anything more than have fun. I made it my mission to try and end each day near a high quality public house. I’m proud to say this mission was accomplished every night.
More views


The evening was spent once again eating great seafood and sampling a few choice ales. Rather than get too carried away, I got myself a sensibly early night in a cheap Airbnb.
I’d been watching the weather with interest. A storm front was moving in and was due to hit sometime on day 3. I hedged my bets, planned two routes and waited until the morning before deciding which one to take.
Grimacing at the rain battering the pavement as I poked my head outside meant that I made the executive decision to take the short/easy ride back to the car in Italy.
I spent the morning legging it between waves of driving rain and unnecessarily aggressive thunder/lightning and eventually got back to the car mostly dry-ish, packed up and began the long slog home.

Mission Accomplished? You bet!

But what a trip! 4 countries in 3 days and 2 nights with 1 barely functioning sorry excuse for a cyclist. I’m calling that a win!
Whilst I obviously only barely dipped the toe of adventure into the incredible cycling potential of both Slovenia and Croatia, I’ve learned enough to know that I need to see more of them both.
I will be back for more, much more, just as soon as I can. Watch this space…
Follow Gairy’s Alpine Adventures on Instagram

Last modified: 14th August 2019

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